Years of study (1995)

Article Information
TitleYears of study
AuthorYves Lacroix
AuthorPhilippe Sohet
Context Information
AlbumAndreas. Une monographie
Article Contents
from the article "Years of study (1995)":
Then you arrive in Belgium. When was that?
Andreas: That was in 1973, I was 22. I spent three years at Saint-Luc and two years at the academy of Sint-Gilles. Saint-Luc is a sort of general art academy, with courses on architecture, illustration, sculpting, and the like. There was one comics workshop where Eddy Paape used to teach for years. I started there the year he was succeeded by Claude Renard. Then it was called Atelier R with the R of Recherche (Research). Renard had been a student-assistent of Paape and replaced him without having any professional experience.
I find it hard to talk about Saint-Luc, because in retrospect I think I didn't learn much there. In any case regarding comics. The drawing lessons, working with models and perhaps even the course art history were definately interesting. But there were also completely useless courses, like philosophy or literature. And during modelling classes we were busier throwing clay at eachother than anything else. In the comics workshop we sometimes had compulsory assignments and sometimes we could do what we wanted. Renard made his round amongst his pupils to talk about their work, make corrections, and such. Later I realised that it was all very much without engagement. It was always like: "Yes, not bad, but maybe there you should..." Never something specific like: "No, this is not right; yes, that is right; here's how to do it..." If you don't have any previous knowledge, such an approach is not likely. Furthermore, there was a sort of breach with the rest of the world. Everything that happened at school was "fantastic" and everything else "worthless". With the exception of Métal Hurlant there were only idiots, people without any sense. This trashed my idols completely - except for Franquin and maybe Moebius, who were considered geniuses. In three years a sort of coccoon formed in which everyone told eachother "Great, what you're doing." But it wasn't really all that much. With that luggage we wouldn't have found a job at any magazine, any publisher. As an example: at a given moment we asked for a course on writing a scenario and we got a course on semantics! Not that it was completely useless, but we never learned to write a scenario. Actually we never learned to tell a story at Saint-Luc.
In what direction did they send you then? The aesthetics side?
Andreas: It went: "You have to make the plate composition stand out." It was the time of Druillet, Moebius, Metal Hurlant... I once tried to create a classic adventure story with a classic plate composition, straight bars. I was barked at: "How could you do that?" You had to find solutions, show a lot of white, stuff that was highly fashionable. It had nothing to do with telling a story. They wanted a nice plate to stick to a wall at the end of the year. The story didn't matter.
Say Saint-Luc, and you immediately think of Andreas, Schuiten, Sokal, Berthet, Forster, Duveaux, Goffin, Cossu. All from the same generation. Have any people of Saint-Luc become famous before or after that?
Andreas: There was a female draftsman, Antoinette Collin, who made things for Robbedoes. I think she has stopped. I think we were the first generation of Saint-Luc. In my year were Duveaux and me, in the next year Antonio Cossu, Philippe Foerster and Philippe Berthet, and the year after that François Schuiten and Goffin and later several others: Séraphine, Chantal de Spiegeleer. Who came after that I don't remember. When Schuiten came to Saint-Luc, we didn't understand what his purpose was. He had already published a short story in Pilote and was technically more advanced than the others.
Andreas: If so many people went to Saint-Luc, it was only because there was nothing else. Everyone who wanted to do comics went to Saint-Luc. At Saint-Luc were people with more talent than the others, with more talent than myself. Because the Saint-Luc is not only a higher education, you can start there just after elementary school with art history, anatomy, drawing lessons, etcetera, until the final exams of secondary school. The people who went through all of that were great draftsmen. But sometimes they were afraid and stopped just as soon as they left their schooldesks. They were not really motivated to make comics. One started working in a restaurant, another - a real genius - at a bank. A shame, because they could draw really well.
After Saint-Luc you went to the Academy of Sint-Gilles?
Andreas: At the same time, I think, at the end of the second year. Eddy Paape started a new course at a small academy two hundred metres from Saint-Luc. A French friend of mine had taken a look and told me: "You should come too, it's really good." Then I went too. I believe that virtually everyone from Saint-Luc followed Paapes lessons at the same time. It was exactly what I was looking for: down to earth, do it so-and-so, little rules. It had its own limitations, but it taught me more than Saint-Luc. It has given me the foundation to do what I wanted to do, and add some external influences.
Paape gave precise directions, something to hold on to. He gave you assignments like: a car arrives at a house and stops; someone gets out of the car, enters the house, gets back into the car and the car takes off. Dat was an exercise he had used for years. Claude Renard always told us that it didn't matter: "You don't need to make such an exercise, it doesn't work like that..." And yet it mattered! When we left Saint-Luc, noone could just make a plate displaying a simple action. We could hardly tell something accurate and simple. Even during our time at school most students realized something was wrong and developed a kind of reaction. Especially Duveaux, who was always very critical and somewhat withdrawn, had conflicts with Renard. Renard in turn rejected Duveaux' work completely. Eventually Duveaux was the first to publish something after he left the academy. In short I also disagreed completely with Renard.
Saint-Luc was interesting for other reasons, at least to me. At the end of the year there always was a jury of people from the trade to give grades. Those people mostly commented and criticized. It was interesting, but the members of the jury always kept themselves low-profile. There were also less well-known people, who I don't really remember. But in the final year, to be precise, the last day at Saint-Luc, Jijé dropped by. He was absolutely fantastic. He trashed everyone, and I mean everyone. Except for François Schuiten. He was the first one that told me: "That is bad; that stinks; junk. Watch! That is badly drawn... There and there... That doesn't work at all!" Of course I was completely nailed to the floor, but at that moment I truely saw what I had made, free from the schoollike view that was so common at the academy. I told myself: "He is right. That's where you're wrong, it is badly drawn. It's not good. There you're wrong, that doesn't work. That's bad..." At that moment I changed what I could. I started to see, make sketches, spending more attention on the anatomy and draw more realistically. I arrived at a drawing style resembling the first Rork. Then Eddy Paape asked me to work for him.
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